After another homeschool day inside, my kids burst out into the evening sunshine to play in our yard, joyful within the necessary confines of our gates.
So many times
life in a large family
is like swimming in the ocean
tossed about by salty waves,
trying to catch your breath between tantrums.
Then there are those moments of glory
when your kids are all getting along
and the baby is sleeping while your eldest girls
do a duet on their ukuleles.
That moment is one of perfect rest,
like you’ve climbed upon a wooden raft,
the waveworn wood smooth against your skin,
the sun’s warm weight on your back.
At that moment you question nothing.
Self-doubt sinks below the waves
and you float there
trusting for that moment
that everything is grace.
In Hawaii, the sun sinks into the sea
like a burning golden coin–
you can actually watch it slip below the surface.
The clouds show off their colours:
peachy orange and cotton candy pink,
dark grey accentuated by strips of shining gold.
After it’s done, the sunset hurrah,
deep darkness falls quickly.
The winding island roads are bathed in blackness.
Everything fades away except ohana, family,
the small circle of warmth
around you and and your loved ones,
sipping wine and sharing stories.
With no streetlights to prolong the day,
it soon feels so late and sleepy.
Bed beckons after a day on the beach.
You’re ready for the windy palm tree lullaby,
that endless rustling of phantom rain
that is simply leaves swaying in the starlight.
The crickets convince you to close your eyes and listen.
“Be soothed, be soothed,” they sing.
“Soon enough the sun will return…
rooster will be sure to let you know.
Early and often he will call:
‘Get up! Get up! A new adventure begins!’ ”
Maui is gorgeous! This mountain valley park is lovely!
All of these photos by my awesome brother Winston. 🙂
how my heart is bursting
with the beauteous warmth of you,
your cuddly down-softness
snuggling in my arms,
fluffy dark hair caressing my cheek as I cradle you.
And yet in all this glory
a bittersweet strain of music
tugs at my heart,
because you are so much like her,
your big sister who was born asleep,
eyes closed forever,
and here you are
I want to cry grateful tears of sorrow
when you squeak and grumble like a little bear
because your sister was so silent.
And when I smell the milky scent on your neck
because your sister never tasted milk.
I was left bursting but alone…
my arms like edges of an empty cradle
with only myself to rock.
I get choked up by your little hands
which look exactly like hers–
long slim fingers and grandma’s double jointed thumbs.
They’re curled up in tiny fists above your head
in the abandon of sleep,
yet warm and ever ready to grasp my finger
instead is still, pale, and cold.
In this bittersweet place
I love you both
and want to give you everything:
all the affection and tenderness
I wished to give her
but also want to give you for yourself.
I drink deeply both of sorrow and of joy.
How life and death are woven together
in this strange tapestry where all the shadows
make the colours brighter.
What is painful
and what is precious
have become inseparable
and love runs through it all.
I was just taking a little nap with baby and closing my eyes so I could see what her dreams were…if they were good or bad.
It’s funny; you’d think as a homeschool mom I’d be relieved it’s summer time…time to kick back and take a break from teaching, have long lazy days of relaxing at the beach or park…but actually, it’s been more of me doing household projects neglected during the year while planning camping trips and outings, and the kids spinning their wheels and counting the days till special events.
So I’ve found it’s more challenging to be home with the kids without the structure of homeschool, than with it. Not that we are super regimented, but each day has its basic routine and learning goals and projects. Without this…we’ve had some fun play for a few weeks, but once we were home sick with a summer cold, a lot of squabbling, pettiness, imaginary insults and hurt feelings.
So today I decided that we needed to make some summer goals… something to focus on and feel good about achieving. Because I think we feel better when we achieve something tangible, than when we simply try to amuse ourselves. Summer boredom is not so much due to a lack of entertainment, as a lack of purpose.
Here’s what we came up with over morning snack today:
We’ve stuck it on the fridge with giant magnets from my recently visiting brother, so we can see it any time we need something to do. Rather than the kids destroying one corner of the house while I clean another, they can do something fun, useful and cooperative. Right now as I nurse the baby my 10 year old is playing art teacher and helping the younger ones make imaginary planets on big pieces of paper where she traced circles from plates. I haven’t had a ‘police report’ of fighting, name calling, or hurt feelings for over 20 minutes! 😊🎉🎈 For a while I thought I’d have to set up a desk and stay there all day to record filed complaints…
Of course, as I write this sentence I hear a fight brewing in the dining room over a secret being kept or something…but hey, we will keep trying! One thing is certain, that seeking personal pleasure and comfort above all is a sure path to misery, because when life is centred on yourself, nothing is good enough and everything displeases. When we instead focus on bringing joy to others, life is an adventure without time for boredom, because there is always someone whose day you can brighten.
What things do you do as a family to bring joy to others? What summer goals do you have to take advantage of your extra free time? How will you re-create yourself this summer?
On Father’s Day we had a funny little thing happen. James and I were on the bus with the kids going to meet my dad for lunch. As people usually do, they commented on the number of our kids with surprise. I like to joke that as a homeschool mom I do my best to promote basic numeracy skills in the community. Like counting up to six. People frequently do that. They use their finger and point “1…2…3…4…5…6! Are they all yours?” “Yup.” Then they might shake their heads in disbelief or give a thumbs up. “That’s awesome! You don’t see big families that much anymore…”
But this time was a little different. A slightly bedraggled older man got on the bus and sat next to an Asian grandma who began to point and count in Chinese. “They all yours?” he asked. “Yes,” I smiled. “Seven, eh?” “Yes…” I replied somewhat mystified…because it’s true. I have six here and one in Heaven. Josephine would be about 20 months if she were alive. “Five girls and two boys?” he asked. “Yes!” I replied, even more surprised, because he even got that part right. I looked around but there were no other kids on the bus besides us.
And if that wasn’t strange enough, when we are walking back home a lady with two kids, a baby on her back and a toddler having a tantrum on the ground, looked at us and counted. “Wow, all yours?” Then she said to her little boy, “Look at that, seven kids and not one of them having a fit!”
Funny, right? It was as if little Josephine wanted to wave hi to Daddy on Father’s Day, to reassure him that she’s right here with us, and that he’s her daddy still. How did those people see her? I don’t know. Maybe their angels showed them. Or maybe they’re terrible at counting. But however it happened, one thing is certain: every baby counts, no matter how short their life, and they are always, always, always a part of their families.